Tucked, just barely, into a garage off Winchester Canyon Road is a 37-foot missile of an automobile that will soon compete in one of the world’s premier land speed-racing events. The streamliner, as it’s called, is built to break speeds of 400+ miles per hour and will be piloted by Arley Langlo, a retired plumber and longtime drag racer who’s been piecing together the #77 car for the better part of a decade. He’s been dreaming about it since the ’80s. Every inch of it (except for the body panels) was fabricated in-house. Langlo even dug 12 feet into the hillside behind his home to extend his workspace. Just don’t ask him about the project’s price tag. “Oh, I never kept track of that stuff,” he said, raising his hands. “We’re drag racing.”
Langlo and his Santa Barbara area team ― Brian Hawkins, Dale Erwin, Jim Wilson, and lead mechanic Hunter Self, owner and operator of the J&S East Valley Garage in Montecito ― will tow #77 by trailer in mid-August to Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week 2019. They’ll go head to head for the record in their class against a streamliner driven by George Poteet, a much-respected Memphis-based millionaire with multiple cars and engines at his disposal. The J&S team have just the one shot. But they’re as ready as they’ll ever be. “Every bolt of this thing has been gone over two or three times,” said Self. “Maybe five or six times.”
While some racers rely on a device called “traction control” to keep their cars glued to the ground, Langlo and Self subscribe to a purer form of racing. “This is our traction control,” said Langlo, flexing his foot. And with no computers or digital gizmos, their streamliner’s narrow red-and-black cockpit is a Spartan war space compared to their competitors’. “Only the bare necessities,” said Self. Before they roar down Bonneville’s five-mile track, the team will showcase their streamliner at the free Groovin’ in the Grove car show put on by the Santa Barbara Elks Lodge this Saturday, July 27. It’ll take place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at 150 North Kellogg Avenue. Go to groovininthegrove.org for more details.
Langlo and Self, normally not the type to talk about pre-race nerves, admitted to feeling a few butterflies over Bonneville. The streamliner has been such a long time coming, and expectations among Santa Barbara racers are now so high, that the pressure is most definitely on. But these steely-eyed missile men are ready for whatever the salt throws at them. “The record is 423 [miles per hour],” said Langlo matter-of-factly. “So we just gotta go faster than that.”